I’m re-reading this book, and have decided this series–and particularly this book–has a carol-simile.
Once, in the early witching hours of the morning when absolutely nothing good happens, I got called out of bed to respond to a roll-over car accident out by Highway N. My partner and I jumped in the ambulance and raced to the scene, still half-asleep, ambulance lights and siren flaring in the darkness. The car had rolled off the road, but the scene was obvious from a mile away, lit up by white-hot spotlights and the strobes of police cars. Officers doing a search had found a teen thrown from the car, sprawled in the matted corn, limbs askew, barely conscious. He was in a halo of light, rimmed with an expanse of corn, enough to get lost in. As I knelt, crushing stalks under my knees, I took his head in my hands to hold his spine straight until my partner could apply a collar. He might have moaned as we worked. For his mother, for a cigarette, for a drink–who could tell? I could smell the sweetness of alcohol on his breath as I watched his breathing. When we shifted and wrapped his body, buckling him to the hard plastic longboard, I heard the deep thuk thuck of the helicopter blades as they slowed.
The Charlie Pitt series is a lot like that scene. Violence, stupidity and noble intentions; life and struggle; purpose and accidents; tension and inevitability; darkness lit by flashes of white and red lights; poetry and philosophy in short choppy bites. Impressive and uncomfortable. The high of adrenalin coupled with tragedy.
The finale in the Joe Pitt series satisfactorily brings it all together and leaves a warm afterglow. Truly, I wasn’t sure it would. The beginning was rocky; Joe is apparently taping a chronicle of events, and of all things, laughing as he narrates. What?! Joe doesn’t laugh. Maybe, at most, a dry chuckle or a bitter half-curve applied to the lip. It felt awkward. However, I stayed with it and it took off like one of Joe’s matches flaring in the dark. Chubby comes to call and request a favor, dangling the chance for Joe to break even and setting it with a sharp hook. Joe is dragged in despite himself, and soon finds himself traversing Manhattan looking for Chubby’s missing daughter and her Vampyre lover.
Once again, the underbelly of New York comes alive, particularly the beginning when we follow Joe through his new turf, and the following subway sequences. I can just about feel the grime and hear the rumble of the train from Joe’s shack. Every time Joe meets that pasty white Enclave skittering through the shadows, I shiver.
The overall action sequence felt a little re-hashed, but it worked well. It’s the finale, and appropriate both in term of the plot and the arc of Joe’s life, and frankly, it’s satisfying to revisit the gang. Digga, Percy, Amanda, Sela, Phil, Lydia, Terry and Hurley, Predo, the Count. They all get a chance to wax philosophical, and what do you know–they all have some surprising insights that are true to character. Digga is my clear favorite, but Hurley’s period accent and mindset runs a close second. The relationships have developed enough over the course of the series that it’s not a replay–more of a jazz riff, escalating to a dramatic conclusion. Huston is not afraid to play hardball with his characters; like Hamlet, the stage is littered with bodies by the end.
And damn if the writing doesn’t keep grabbing me:
“I’d say I was thinking about Evie, but that would be redundant. She’s my white noise. Always there, crackling static in my brain. Inescapable. Mostly you tune it out. The second you focus on it, it drowns out everything else.”
“Not that she’s done me wrong. Just that she radiates danger with a half-life of forever.”
“If it go that far. Which I ain’t sure about as yet. Possibility people could all have a sudden attack of gettin’ they’s shit together. Never know.”